a timely debate

For over a year now, our company has been working with RE Sources for Sustainable Communities and Climate Solutions to create messaging and graphics about the coal train issue. An overview of the issue can be found here.

It has been a challenging project. Challenging in the sheer complexity of the issue: the impacts of the terminal vs. the trains, the impacts of the coal dust, of the diesel particulates, the labyrinthine bureaucracy, the prospect of a decade long fight, the vast, seemingly inexhaustible resources and hunger of corporate interests fueling the issue. These details make people shut down. It creates a feeling of cold uncertainty that the fight is over before it’s started.

The reality is that if enough people speak out, the project can be stopped. Have you read Horton Hears a Whoo? That’s the coal train issue from our point of view. Achieving the critical mass that’s needed to shut the project down is a marketing communications issue — also a timing issue.

Readers of this blog will remember how I was struck by the altercation between Komen and Planned Parenthood – particularly by how this blog post expertly summarized their fight, and why the smarter, more resourceful side prevailed. I am struck by the importance of time in the issue, and how a strategic use of time created the drama and momentum that helped turned a potentially serious loss to a victory. A timely debate.

It has recently been announced that the decision making process for this issue will include the public’s involvement for a brief period of time this summer. It’s my hope that the opportunity to be directly involved – especially with that time involvement being brief – will charge the conversation in a new way. Borrowing a metaphor from Laura Ries, my new way of thinking is that the work we’ve done so far is like a nail, and the momentum created by brief window public involvement is the hammer that strikes the blow.

Eric Shew is a graphic designer and front end developer living in Bellingham, Washington.

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